Even with an all-star lineup, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could not forget its lost Strummer

By Brian Hiatt
March 21, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Despite a Police reunion and a stadium- volume AC/DC assault, the 18th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was most notable for what it lacked: Clash frontman Joe Strummer.

Inductee Elvis Costello hugged attendees Neil Young and Paul Simon and said, ”I wish Joe was here, you know?”

That sentiment carried over to Strummer’s surviving bandmates, who chose not to reunite in song sans their leader. ”Without Joe, we couldn’t do it,” guitarist Mick Jones said later. ”I don’t think it was the right environment for the Clash to re-form,” agreed bassist Paul Simonon.

Strummer’s absence became even more conspicuous when the planned Clash tribute, an all-hands-on-deck rendition of ”I Fought the Law,” fell through. (Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello, who had lugged his ax along for the aborted performance, hinted that the jam suffered an ugly demise in the afternoon sound check.)

Though the honor was bittersweet, Jones and Simonon were pleased. Said Simonon, ”It’s like a big golden slap on the back, really.”